Artist: Sleep Token
Album Title: This Place Will Become Your Tomb
Date of Release: 24 September 2021
It’s one thing to be able to shroud your identity in mystery behind masks or by deliberately shunning the media, but it’s quite another to be able to hide the true identity of your music as well. However, that’s exactly what the enigmatic Sleep Token have managed to achieve with their sophomore release entitled ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’. I come, somewhat fittingly, to this new record with no prior knowledge of the band, their debut release ‘Sundowning’ or what to expect upon listening – just a recommendation or two from voices that I trust when it comes to music. And, having listened to ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ several times through, I feel no less confused, no less disorientated, but no less intrigued either.
‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ spans a meaty 53 minutes over twelve individual tracks and in that time, I hear post metal, djent, rock, electronic, prog, alternative, pop, and a plethora of other styles and influences. As a result, I have no idea how to describe the approach of Sleep Token in any kind of pithy way whatsoever. What I can say with certainty is that, on balance, I do enjoy the listening experience. There are some points where I’m left feeling a little less enamoured, particularly in the album’s latter stages. But overall, I find the album a generally interesting and rewarding listen.
Given the varied nature of the offering, it would be impossible to review the album properly without delving into some of the songs, to try to adequately describe what exactly is going on. So here goes…
‘Atlantic’ opens proceedings and a more fragile track you’re unlikely to hear. What we’re presented with is a delicate piano melody from…err…the pianist/keyboardist, on top of which we have some incredibly emotional vocals courtesy of…err…the vocalist of Sleep Token. His voice has a modern, strangely mainstream edge to it if that makes any kind of sense. What I mean is that he might not sound out of place in a number of other bands currently plundering the popular music channels.
After an increase in what I can only describe as dark dystopian electronics to heighten the atmosphere, the song explodes into a more metallic affair, what I’d loosely describe as post-metal, complete with chunky riffing, and bruising drumming. The heaviness is gone in a flash though as the song ends as quietly as it began.
By contrast, ‘Hypnosis’ is a full-on heavy track, albeit with plenty of tricks up its sleeve. The approach is demonstrably post-rock/post-metal that gives way to more minimalist sections where the vocals and strong beat take centre stage. As the name might suggest, this is a churning, hypnotic track that eventually opens up to deliver a subtle melody beneath layers of ethereal vocals that’s the hook for me to return for repeated listens. The song isn’t done though, as a blast of heavy djent replaces the melody, to drive the song to a conclusion, or more accurately, drive the song to some weird atmospherics which bring the song to a close.
‘Mine’ is another very different song, making it three out of three. The melodies are far more pop-like, with a much greater use of electronics creating an arresting central hook within the chorus that you can’t help but like. Again, the vocalist stands at the centre of the composition and whilst I have no problem with him, his isn’t a voice that I instantly warm to I must admit – it has taken a bit of time to achieve appreciation. The vague Oriental undertones are gorgeous, and I like the quiet/heavy/quiet structure deployed here, even if the heavy sections aren’t bulldozer heavy.
Let’s go four from four shall we? ‘Like That’ definitely provides yet another approach, with strong electronic beats that put the previous use of electronics entirely in the shade. These are the beats that kids with subwoofers in the boot blast out, striking misery to my ears. However, in the context of this song, which deviates into heavier territory here and there, including bursts of heavily-effected djent, it just about works. It isn’t their finest hour in my opinion, but it shows the way that Sleep Token are willing to experiment in any direction.
‘The Love You Want’ is the kind of song that could possibly find itself on mainstream radio, thanks to pop-friendly melodies, and beats that are incredibly modern. I like it in spite of myself and, by now, nothing on this record surprises me. There is a touch of heaviness in the final reprise of the chorus, but this is not a metal song, far from it; it’s the kind of song that could bridge many divides were it to be given a wider audience. ‘Fall For Me’, essentially just a track comprised of layers of vocals, is another compelling track, but as far from my normal fare as it’s possible to be. But a good melody will always win me over.
One of my favourite tracks from the beginning is ‘Alkaline’ mainly because it contains some of the most beautiful melodies anywhere on the album, not to mention some chunky riffing, lashings of atmosphere, and an energy that immediately attracted me.
As delicate, deep and entrancing as the songs continue to be throughout ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’, I do feel that the album suffers in the latter stages a little; it feels a bit like it runs out of steam, and limps to a conclusion. I’m the Man Of Much Metal, so of course I am always searching for more heaviness, but I can forego this if the music makes a strong enough impact. But in places, this is where Sleep Token fall down just a touch. It’s a record full of emotion, depth and passion – that much is incredibly clear. But, for some reason, something prevents me from connecting to it on anything more than a relatively superficial level. I know there are many fans out there who feel very differently, but I have to be honest with my reviews. ‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ is a very good album, but in my opinion, it falls short of greatness, despite the experimentation and the mountain of different ideas on show.
The Score of Much Metal: 79%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: